ISLAMABAD: Mass transit projects in Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi have been included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the federal government has arrived at an understanding with the Sindh government regarding the provision of land and technical inputs for various projects including the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), Minister for Railways Saad Rafique said a news conference on Thursday.
The decision to include the KCR in CPEC was taken in a recent meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah. A working group has been formed and railway officials will hold meetings with Sindh government officials to prepare the terms of reference for the project.
The initial plan for the 43km-long KCR proposes that it could be extended up to Dhabejee on mainline via Drig Road, Drig Colony, Karachi airport, Malir city and Landhi. While the project is yet to be evaluated, the ministry will fully support it, he assured.
Mr Rafique explained that there were 35 small and large railway stations along the KCR route and hinted that the Karachi Urban Transport Corporation may not exist in its present form after the establishment of KCR.
Pakistan and China are close to signing an agreement to launch the Main Line-1 (ML-1) project which will connect Gwadar with the national railways network, the minister disclosed. Working groups on both sides have been formed and a formal negotiation will start this month.
The project will be completed in three phases. The line capacity under ML-1 is currently 32 trains per day, which will increase to 171 trains per day after it is upgraded.
In the second phase, the Quetta-Zhob track will be upgraded and Havelian will be connected to Khunjerab. The third phase of the project involves doubling the track between Peshawar and Lahore and constructing a dry port at Havelian.
The project proposal has been submitted for evaluation to the transport working group of the joint cooperation committee. If it gets a go ahead from the working group, the committee will approve it during the next session scheduled after six months. Regarding the financial aspect of the project, he said that would depend on the funds the Chinese committed to for the project.
Discussing the Quetta Mass Transit project, Mr Rafique said initial work on the project had begun as a result of special interest taken by the provincial chief minister. At the request of the government, the Chinese had included it in CPEC and the transport working group had started evaluating the project. The approval is expected within next six months, he said.
The project involves upgrading five railway stations and building more stations if required. Around three million people of the province will benefit from it, he said.
Pakistan Railways will start transporting coal for the Sahiwal coal power project on January 26, the minister said.
High-efficiency hopper wagons will be used to transport coal from Karachi to Sahiwal daily.
Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2017